In the event of this recent outbreak of COVID-19 and the World Health Organisation officially declared a pandemic, companies need to create and implement a Business Continuity Plan.
Business continuity planning is the process involved in creating a system of prevention and recovery from potential threats to a company.
A business continuity plan is designed to protect personnel and assets and make sure they can function quickly when disaster strikes.
Firms should implement business continuity plans to minimise disruption to their operations and ensure that business remains viable during the virus outbreak.
According to a study by the Insurance Institute of Business & Home Safety, 25% of businesses do not reopen following a major event. An effective BCP maximizes the chance of a successful recovery by eliminating hasty decision-making under stressful conditions.
In view of the current COVID-19 situation, we have come up with the anticipated challenges that companies may encounter:
- Employees’ lack of focus or loss of productivity when telecommuting
Employees may not be able to get used to working from home as there may be distractions such as children or family members. The lack of proximity to co-workers may also drag down collaborative efficiency.
- Disruption to supply chains
With lockdowns in several countries such as China, India, and Malaysia, factories and businesses are closed, causing supply of raw materials or intermediate products to be disrupted.
- Pessimism of consumers due to the economic downturn
With the pessimistic economic outlook, consumers may turn away from spending, resulting in a fall in revenue of firms and businesses. Travel restrictions will also greatly affect the tourism industry in the near future.
In the company checklist, we will elaborate on what firms, managers, and employees should do in this crisis in order to weather the storm. There will be instructions and guides for each party to play their part responsibly. We will start with what firms should do.
Firstly, firms should identify critical business functions, essential employees and develop plans to support them. There is an urgent need to communicate with relevant stakeholders such as suppliers, service providers and customers, as it is critical to understand their business continuity plans as well.
Identifying essential customers and ensure that plans are put in place to meet customer needs should also be done as soon as possible. It would be advisable to begin a dialogue with various stakeholders to come up with collaborative contingency measures in the event where the situation worsens.
An example of a point of discussion would be when and how to activate alternative suppliers and delivery means to customers.
Furthermore, in times like this where social contact is discouraged, telecommuting is inevitable, and it requires a new kind of leadership and management approach.
Therefore, firms must place an emphasis on clear communication to ensure that employees have a clear understanding of their roles and responsibilities.
For instance, employees should be informed of the Business Continuity Planning measures that will impact them and be kept updated on the policies and progress on the measures to be implemented by the company.
To facilitate communication, tools such as Slack, Zoom, Buffer, Dropbox Paper, and Trello can be downloaded and utilised.
Moreover, firms should allow flexible work arrangements and set up alternate teams of employees who can be deployed at different work schedules to minimise social contact.
For example, team A telecommutes while team B works from the office, and vice versa.
The teams should be physically segregated to avoid the risk of infection between teams. Cross-training employees and establishing covering arrangements will also help minimise disruptions to operations of a firm.
The idea is to empower employees to provide support from within the company instead of outsourcing or overloading one group of employees during hectic times.